NEW WATERFORD, OH (WKBN)-The Leetonia Bears girls basketball team is learning to win. Monday night they beat the Crestview Rebels 49-43 in an ITCL non-conference game matching their win total from last year. With the victory the Bears improve to 6-5 on the season while the Rebels fall to 6-6 on the season.
“The kids have adapted to our philosophy, and we’re playing more man-to-man defense and relying on our quickness,” Bears coach Joh Hritz explained. “The kids are buying into the program. Last year they were just going through the motions, but this year they are doing just a fantastic job.”
“Tonight was a good indicator of winning a game that was a close ball game and we were finally able to make a few foul shots,” Hritz added. “This was like an over-the-hump game for us. I think we can get a lot better, but this gives us a lot more confidence.”
The Bears took charge right from the opening tip-off as they raced out to a 10-2 lead at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter. However, the Rebels would close the period with a 6-0 run to clothe Bears advantage to 10-8 at the end of the quarter. The Rebels would eventually take the lead in the second quarter as Makenzie Daub scored with just 8-seconds remaining before halftime to give them a slim 17-16 lad at the break.
The Bears wasted little time to reclaim the lead in the second half when junior forward Kristy Eckman score two of her game-high 15 points at the 6:56 mark to put them up 19-17. Following the two teams trading the lead three times in the next four minutes, the Bears would close the quarter on a 9-4 run to hold a 30-26 lead after three periods of play.
The Bears would stretch their advantage out to as many as 9-points mid way through the fourth quarter at 38-29, but the Rebels kept fighting back. The Rebels would close to within 5-points at the 1:33 mark on a basket by Haley Eskra, but the Bears would close the frame outscoring the Rebels 6-5 to provide the game ending 6-point difference.
“I think that it showed that we can beat good teams,” Eckman remarked on the win. “I think it’s going to boost the team’s confidence way high.”
“We are working better as a team. There is a lot communication as we just bond together,” Eckman added. “Last year there was more of a separation because we were a young team.”
“Our last three games we are just not in rhythm or a good flow offensively,” Rebels coach Rick Gates said. “We will have a couple sets where we have good possession and we get good shots and not finish, but tonight we were just out of rhythm.”
“We just did not play smooth tonight and they played well,” Gates added.
The loss overshadowed a game-high 21-points by the Rebels junior guard Alexis Gates. Sydni Bowker added another 10-points to help pace the Rebels. Gates would also grab 7 rebounds along with Taryn Gilbert matching her with 7.
In addition to Eckman’s 15-points to lead the Bears, Elizabeth Mills chipped in 14-points. Eckman would also grab 8 rebounds to lead the Bears on the boards.
The Bears would also win the j-v contest as they downed the Rebels 28-24.